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LIZZIE: The Lizzie Borden Rock Musical

LIZZIE: The Lizzie Borden Rock Musical

Music by Steven Cheslik-deMeyer & Allan Stevens Hewitt
Lyrics by Steven Cheslik-deMeyer and Tim Maner
Book by Tim Maner

Imprint Theatreworks

Lizzie – Devin Berg
Bridget – Aubrey Ferguson
Alice – Theresa Kellar
Emma – Laura Lites

Piano and Music Director – Rebecca Lowrey
Orchestrations -- Alan Stevens Hewitt
Cello/Aux Percussion – Devan Bell
Bass – Sara Bollinger
Guitars – Rachel Francis, Gilbert Glenn
Drums – Bree Hill

Director -- Ashley H. White
Music Director – Rebecca Lowrey
Stage Manager – Kristy Scroggins
Set Design – Aaron White and Ashely H. White
Master Carpenter – Abby Kipp-Roberts
Light Design – Daniel Spiropoulos
Sound Design – Brian Christensen
Costume Design – Jessie Wallace

Reviewed Performance: 10/31/2019

Reviewed by Stacey Upton, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

Crisp. Vital. Passionate. These are all apt words to describe the outrageous, outstanding Regional Premiere of “Lizzie,” being staged in the delightful venue that is the Bath House for the final show of the second season for Imprint Theatreworks. It’s a must-see production. This musical marriage of the tale of Lizzie Borden – you know, the pent-up girl of the nursery rhyme who gave her mother 40 whacks with an axe, and when she was done, gave her father 41 – with a fabulous rock score sung by four immensely talented women wowing us with their voices is one that works on every theatrical level. It’s a full-on, all-in, very fun journey that shows us a bit of the backstory of Lizzie and her sister Emma and the perfectly awful set of people that were raising them, as well as the murders and what came afterwards.

Devin Berg as Lizzie has a startling journey, and executes it beautifully. During the course of the show Berg moves from being a perfectly coiffed, not-too-bright, repressed and victimized girl to becoming a devious murdering vixen who gets away with it. Her vocals are powerful and clear, and her use of body and facial expressions are perfection. She has immense stage presence, and communicates her inner feelings beautifully – not only with her exceptional vocals, but with her excellent acting ability. Berg’s ability to sing grunge rock as well as poignant ballads is remarkable, as is her delightful way of sharing the stage with the other three women.

Laura Lites lights up the stage as Emma, the bitter 12-years-older sister to Lizzie. Emma has anger issues, and Lites does an excellent job raging while still managing to be funny and real. The energy sizzles around this performer, who took command of the stage when it was her turn and then perfectly supported the other performers with gorgeous background vocals. Lites has two standout songs; one that is absolutely hilarious and has lyrics which are not printable after she discovers the murders, and the other completely opposite, an “innocent” old-time hymn with her sister, where her harmonies shine.

Aubrey Ferguson as the housekeeper Bridget, who is rightfully annoyed that the sisters continually refer to her as “Maggie” their old housekeeper, gets the play rolling with verve. “There’s crazy shite in the house of Borden,” she tells us with a naughty eyeroll. Ferguson has marvelous comic timing and her impressive voice and great diction are both pluses in this production. Her devious hand in helping the commit murder is well-performed, while her delightful manner gives us plenty of laughs in this macabre journey. Ferguson is a wonderfully supportive actress who is a delight to watch.

The conscience of this piece is neighbor Alice played with delicacy and sweetness by Theresa Kellar. Alice likes to “call” on Lizzie, who receives her “upstairs,” with the insinuation that these two women are not just sipping tea. In a beautifully voiced song, Alice reveals she has a secret, one that she is not sure she can share with Lizzie – that she is infatuated with her. The relationship between Lizzie and Alice grows, and provides the small drops of love we find in the bleak landscape that is Lizzie’s life. The physicality between these two is remarkably well-handled, as is the later turn when Alice is asked to defend Lizzie with a lie. Kellar has a clear, bell-like voice that blends beautifully with the other women.

The vocals are incredible, and the four actresses are an impeccable working unit, sharing microphones in dizzying patterns, leaning on each other, staging intimacy and assault equally well. The band backing them is musically excellent as well, and are just as into the show as the actresses are. The synergy between actors and musicians is a standout in in this production. Music Director Rebecca Lowrey is to be commended – not only are all the harmonies gorgeously on-point, but literally every single word is understandable even in the rockiest of rock songs. The band is tight, and the sound design keeps our ears turned where they need to be every step of the way, kudos to Brian Christensen.

This production melds passion and theatrical minimalism – there are no extra props getting in the way of the emotion of this piece. Director Ashley H. White wisely trusts her cast, her staging, and the music to create the magic. White is an accomplished director with impeccable vision. She’s also a trained fight choreographer. Every stylized move is tight, rehearsed and perfect. There are graphic things portrayed in this show, and immense physicality required from the actors, but you never once fear for their safety. What a gift. Her actresses move all the time in a precise synchrony -- a perfect counterpoint to the raw, angry energy of this piece. The set is minimal but highly effective. It is a perfect backdrop for the visceral staging that has sprung from the creative mind of director White, who shares set design credit with Aaron White. If they had gone for an over-blown standard Victorian-era living room setting, this show would not have popped nearly as effectively. The director and the design team have also created many wonderful special physical effects that hit just the right tone to keep the audience poised between revulsion and delight. This review is not going to spoil a single one of them, they are all too delightful and perfectly executed.

Costuming by Jessie Wallace is a match for the production as a whole – gorgeous lines, simple colors, wow-za results. Wallace’s nod to the Victorian era in the first half of the piece is joyfully smashed to bits as the women come out in their rockin’ second act outfits that would make Dr. Frank N. Furter die of jealousy. Light design by Daniel Spiropoulpos is perfect for this show – his use of classic scrim lighting for gorgeous backdrops within the narrative alongside swirling rock opera spots and ghostly blues giving everything a haunted look work beautifully with the concept as a whole. Shout-out to stage manager Kristy Scroggins for keeping the million cues and effects moving right along. Congratulations to all who had a hand in bringing this fantastic rock musical to life, you’ve created an amazing show.

Performance Dates:
October 31 - November 16th
Thursdays at 8 pm
Fridays at 8 pm
Saturdays at 2 pm and 8 pm

Bath House Cultural Center
521 E. Lawther Dr.
Dallas, TX 75218
United States

Website, Information, and Tickets:

This production includes content that may be disturbing, including violence, adult content, language, and a depiction of sexual assault. Due to the mature subject matter, this piece is only suitable for audience members 18+